The Airbnb Story

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Most people know Airbnb as the disruptive hospitality business that is valued at $24 billion.

Sometimes, the number, size and speed to market of these startups can blind us to the people who are building them. It’s easy to think of these innovators and entrepreneurs as moustache-twirling evildoings, who are hoarding wealth and disrupting the status quo. More often than not, this is not the case. Joe Gebbia is the co-founder of Airbnb. To be frank, his story is charming… even humane. Prior to this past year’s TED conference, I had not heard the Airbnb story, as told by one of its founders. Was it about money? Hardly. It was an accident. Gebbia bet his whole career on the notion that strangers can trust each other enough to stay in each other’s home and – when they do – the world becomes more tolerable. 

Getting over stranger–danger bias.

A core component to building a successful business comes down to one’s network. In the early days of Mirum (back when we were known as Twist Image), I would often give presentations on how to develop a personal brand, by using the nascent social media channels and tools that were offered back then. Another component of that presentation was networking. I would (half) jokingly tell people that while our parents engrained in us the thought that we should “never talk to strangers,” when it comes to business, we should “always talk to strangers.” Gebbia took this notion, coupled it with a one-time-experience that he describes in his story below, and layered strong design and usability on top of it to create Airbnb. Over 125 million hosted nights to date (and always growing), Gebbia and his team are now dreaming bigger. They want to create a culture of sharing and place, where design can help to build community and connection to one another.

Airbnb is more than just a place to crash. 

Airbnb is changing the way that the world travels, and the way in which people connect. It’s not hyperbole, just watch their story below for real life examples of how Airbnb has done this. Gebbia – along with his co-founders Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczyk – have also developed a new economy via Airbnb for millions of people in close to 200 countries.

Watch the Airbnb story about how humans can connect: How Airbnb Designs For Trust – TED 2016